RMIT researchers have been awarded funds to establish a teaching academy that aims to significantly change the way universities and schools train pre-service teachers.
Funded for two years by the Department of Education and Training (DET), the North Melbourne Teaching Academy for Professional Practice will open its doors later this year.
A partnership between RMIT’s School of Education, industry leaders and 12 primary schools, the academy is set to provide effective practical experience to pre-service teachers, also known as student teachers, as well as strengthen the mentoring skills of current teachers.
Project managers Dr Kathy Jordan and Dr Jennifer Elsden-Clifton, from RMIT’s School of Education, said the course was a “long time in the making”.
“We have realised for some time that we needed to make better connections with schools and to work together to improve the quality of our programs,” Elsden-Clifton said.
Central to the Academy is the Professional Experience: Connected Classrooms course, which represents a shift from the School of Education’s usual teaching practice.
The School’s staff and practising teachers have co-produced the course, meaning the content will draw upon both theoretical knowledge (what to teach) and pedagogical knowledge (how to teach).
This practice is groundbreaking, as it is rare for universities to have course content developed and taught by primary schools and their teachers.
The course content will be collated onto a website to enable easy access for pre-service teachers when completing placements in partner schools.
And, in keeping with its focus on practical application of knowledge, the course will be taught by School-based tutors, who are practising teachers with the expert knowledge to localise and apply the course content to each particular school context.
Jordan said it was “an exciting time for us”.
“The recent release of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report places greater accountability on teacher education providers,” she said.
“They need to be able to demonstrate that graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills to teach in schools.
“And we are now in a very good position to do just that.”
The Academy involves all 220 second-year Bachelor of Education (Primary) students, allowing them to undertake placement in groups of 12 to 16 in partner schools.
In terms 1 and 2, they will undertake an immersion program, which will orientate students to the school and to its particular curriculum priorities and ways of teaching and learning.
In term 3, students will return to their partner school to undertake the Connected Classrooms course.
Within this course, pre-service teachers will receive extensive experience in how to design effective lesson sequences to meet Australian Curriculum standards and in how to use Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) authentically.
Students will then observe their mentors’ teaching and apply these strategies to their own practice.
Teacher mentors at each partner school will undertake face-to-face and online learning and a two-year research plan will be developed so practising teachers and RMIT staff can work together on specific local research projects.
The Professional Experience: Connected Classrooms course is being designed as a Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), a new approach to course design that emphasises collaboration, shared knowledge and community.
The course design will foster deep relationships with industry and the future employability of graduates.
Jordan and Elsden-Clifton have also been awarded a Learning and Teaching Investment Funds grant to pilot an alternative approach to Work Integrated Learning course design and delivery.
Using an action learning methodology, the pair will evaluate the quality of student learning and work-readiness, with an aim to share key learning so others might adopt a similar approach of involving industry partners and developing alternative teaching and learning methods.